New 32-way Raspberry Pi cluster built by US PhD candidate

Joshua Kiepert, a PhD candidate from Boise University, has built an awesome 32-way cluster from Raspberry Pis. Although clusters from Pi's have been made before, and even much larger, this is still a seriously cool project.

Keipert is currently doing a doctoral research, something related to data sharing system for wireless sensor networks. And he needs a cluster so he could simulate lots of distributed sensors. But the only available cluster in his university, a Xeon-powered one, is always in-demand, and its specs are also a little too much for what he needs. That's why he decided to build his own cluster for his lengthy experiments.

New 32-way Raspberry Pi cluster

With the help of fellow doctoral students, Kiepert built his own Beowulf cluster using RPis. Not only were the RPi’s unique features for controlling simple hardware very useful, but the cost of creating the cluster was incredibly low: at $45 per Pi, including an 8GB SD card, he could acquire the raw materials for a 32-way cluster for $1500. This is equal to the cost of just one node of the Xeon-powered cluster. In short, Kiepert was able to create an entire 32 node RPi cluster that requires less power than a single node in the cluster of his university facility.

USB power would also have complicated the housing for the cluster by adding weight, a problem Kiepert said was not insignificant because 32 ethernet cables were a drag on the slim and light computers.


When the cluster is really a cool project, there are still several downsides. The most prominent one is that that an RPi is nowhere near as powerful as a desktop PC. Also, because of the limited processing capability, the RPiCluster will not reliably support multiple users simultaneously. However, the creator of this project believes there wont be any negative impact on his current doctoral research. As a matter of fact, according to Kiepert, the performance is perfectly acceptable for his simulation needs and he is now using the cluster extensively for his dissertation work.

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